Australia v Sri Lanka, CB Series 2nd final, Adelaide March 6, 2012

Emotions lend charm to Jayawardene's captaincy

Mahela Jayawardene doesn't hold back on the odd show of theatrics. Given the troubled circumstances, his style of captaincy is responsible for Sri Lanka's reversal of fortunes

The cricket world is full of too many nice and cool captains. Virender Sehwag is so afraid of breaching the spirit of cricket that he doesn't want to claim a dismissal that he believes is rightfully his side's. Michael Clarke finds mankading immoral, takes runs off overthrows off his bat but wants them reversed, and is generally conscious he is not seen as pushing the line. MS Dhoni maintains his cool, not changing things despite his team's poor results, because then he will be seen as getting flustered.

Mahela Jayawardene is refreshingly different. Just watch him respond to appeals turned down. Just watch him try to pull every possible trick within the cricket laws. Just watch him argue with the umpires today when they had missed a no-ball, and called it upon the batsman's insistence. He just let rip. He argued with the umpires while they were arriving at the decision, went to the square-leg umpire a ball later and continued doing so, and at the end of the over had a go at the other umpire, throwing his hands up frequently.

There are some who will call it poor behaviour, but here was a captain of a side whose fielders had dropped more catches than acceptable in a whole tournament, a side that could be proud of having come so far, a side that was playing its fourth game in eight nights, but Jayawardene didn't want it to end this way; he wanted to make it five games in 10 nights. And what is wrong with losing your cool once in a while as long as it is not banal abuse?

You want to see desperation, you want a losing side to pull every trick before accepting defeat, you want somebody to stir a side up when it begins to go through the motions. Sri Lanka were going down at that time. Two batsmen were approaching centuries, Sri Lanka's grip on the game had come off, and Australia looked good to score 300. Jayawardene agreed it is good for a captain to sometimes let it go.

"I guess so," Jayawardene said. "Just to get hyped up a bit more. Probably the bowlers also felt that, you know, that it was unjustified, and backed me in the last few overs, I guess. Overall it was a good game. Credit to the boys. We had to make a few tough calls."

Is there a bit of Arjuna Ranatunga in there? Jayawardene said he wouldn't go that far, but said he feels the need to break the status quo at times. "Just sometimes I tend to argue myself into things," he said, "and I know I have a good partner in crime in Sanga [Kumar Sangakkara] if I don't get it right. So one of us will always try and make sure we argue to the point, and then that's it."

He moved up the order, which coincided with Sri Lanka's first good opening stand and their first win. It couldn't have been an easy move, because it involved telling Upul Tharanga that on current form he was not good enough to open in testing conditions

Of course, this altercation wasn't the reason why Sri Lanka won. Jayawardene's total involvement as captain has been part of the reason why the floundering side has turned it around under him. He took over an unpaid and broken side, and began the campaign with two defeats in the hometown of the coach who had just been sacked without reason. One of his openers was a walking wicket, his best bowler hadn't had a great tournament. As captain on the field, Jayawardene has had just one off day, when India chased 321 in 36.4 overs.

However, Jayawardene also had to shake things up as a batsman. He moved up the order, which coincided with Sri Lanka's first good opening stand and their first win. It couldn't have been an easy move, because it involved telling Upul Tharanga that on current form he was not good enough to open in testing conditions. "Everyone has taken it positively," he said. "Not just Upul. The other day he batted at six and batted positively. We have to sometimes play purely tactically."

Jayawardene was an angry man today. "Definitely I was disappointed," he said. "Especially when you are playing just four bowlers, and depending on Dilly [Tillakaratne Dilshan] to be the fifth, and he did a great job. We knew we had to pick up wickets, and that's the only way we could control that batting line-up. And our guys were dropping everything. We can laugh about it, obviously because we had a very comfortable win today, but it would have definitely cost the match and the tournament."

The fury showed in his batting, in how he stepped out to hit James Pattinson for his first boundary, in how he swept Daniel Christian for a six, in how he went at a rate higher than Dilshan's, in being in full control of the game. It was unfortunate when, for whatever reason, Jayawardene quit captaincy. Now that he is back, it is fun to watch him lead Sri Lanka.

Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mark00 on March 8, 2012, 7:09 GMT

    Mahela's objection was due to the fact that the umpires only called it a no-ball after the australian batsman told them to. Umpires taking directions from the opposing team is a very good reason to express concern.

  • TheGreatBCCI on March 8, 2012, 7:04 GMT

    Good Job jayawardene, India won the CB Series last time and now Srilanka.. Australia dominance in world cricket is destroyed by Subcontinent Teamss ... good sign for World cricket

  • taniap on March 8, 2012, 6:47 GMT

    I dare say best captain SL ever had,... just edging Arjuna by a whisker. I hope Mahela stays on a little longer than a year until a proper understudy is ready to take on the role.

  • NP_NY on March 8, 2012, 6:23 GMT

    This guy should have never quit his captaincy earlier. Right now, he is probably the shrewdest captain around atleast in the limited overs format. SL is leading Aus 4-2 in this series and looks like they're winning the final. Just goes to show what good strong leadership can do to a team's fortunes.

  • dummy4fb on March 8, 2012, 2:24 GMT

    the reason why we won the WC was cause of the great Ranatunga.MJ is a good kipper too.

  • Marcio on March 8, 2012, 0:17 GMT

    Jayawardene loses it and it is "charming"? It was a real dummy spit. If an Australian captain ever carried on like that the media would have his head. Even Ponting never lost it like that.

  • dummy4fb on March 7, 2012, 23:11 GMT

    Leading a team in any form of sport is a huge responsibility. Leading a cricket team is even more challenging. ICC has implement a book of rules and fines for breaching them. I still see this matter being handled differently if Michael Clerk was in Mahela's shoes. The past incidents in this tournament is self explanatory. Wondering if there are two rule books..........? Would love to get my hands on the other.

  • cricmatters on March 7, 2012, 21:50 GMT

    @Kalhara Caldera My comments were not against Mahela only. In the previous match, Michael Clarke rushed in from slip to question a LBW decision which didn't go in his favour. ANY captain who shows disagreement or dissent on the field should be dealt with by the match referee. Captains can lodge an official complaint about bad decisions after the match but making statement in the media about umpiring or throwing tantrums on the field is not acceptable. Umpires try to do a difficult job under pressure and should be shown a bit more respect.

  • dummy4fb on March 7, 2012, 20:45 GMT

    he never should've quit captaincy in the first place.. I believed that when he quit captaincy after the thrashing we got from India in '09 when Sangakkara took over captaincy, when Dilshan took over captaincy and now

  • Nathan_123 on March 7, 2012, 20:24 GMT

    After seeking this incident I am beginning to like Mahela. I thought he was a soft character, but now the world has seen a different side to Mahela: very hungry, angry, positive and a confident captain. I also agree that he had gone bit over the top with this incident, but he also had a fair point where Clark shouldn't have interfered with the umpires' decision. SL desperately needed a captain like Mahela at the present time, and he had proved to the world that he is the best captain at present time in world cricket. It's not easy for any team to go to Australia and win games. The difference for me is that SL batsmen's have been playing the short ball exceptionally well. I remember Aussies used to intimidate the SL players by bowling short deliveries. But now the 145km an hour bowls have been disappearing to the car park. Great stuff!

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